"...and I realized that it was a really beautiful day."
June 25, 2015 7:40 PM   Subscribe

"Child actor-turned-maligned-Star-Trek-character-turned-geek-icon Wil Wheaton has been fairly open about his struggles with mental illness and depression. But for those who haven’t heard about that side of his life before, Project UROK spoke with the actor/writer about the way his anxiety affects him and why he eventually chose to seek help. We’re debuting that interview exclusively here on The A.V. Club." By Caroline Siede; direct YouTube link.

Trigger warning for other videos on the website (for anorexia, bulimia, suicide).

Another video at the site demonstrates the wide varriety of approaches: Amy León

More about Project UROK, FAQ, Resources.

Previously: Why Being A Nerd Is Awesome
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (41 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm really proud of my friend.
posted by jscalzi at 7:49 PM on June 25, 2015 [65 favorites]


Hey, I didn't know this about Wil. That's really interesting, and good on him for talking about it.

He seems like a decent guy. He's certainly got plenty of charisma and seems passionate about things, and engages openly and seemingly warmly and genuinely with his fans. I'd guessed he probably got knocked around a little by encountering stardom at such a young age, but had the wherewithal to chisel out a couple of worthwhile niches with whatever degree of fame he varyingly earned for himself, depending on who you ask.

The recent TableTop debacle (re: boardgame rules, of all things) could have been handled a little better by him personally, I guess, but it turned into a typical histrionic Reddit clusterfuck and has probably trimmed away a lot of Wil's interest in engaging with people in that particular context, which is a shame. Having similar problems to Wil, I can easily imagine that the situation brought some black clouds with it.

Anyway, I give Wil Wheaton 8.5/10.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:54 PM on June 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Anyway, I give Wil Wheaton 8.5/10.

For what? His depression?
posted by Nevin at 8:06 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wil should be a MeFite, and I'm kinda ticked off that some jackasses mocked him away during the early days of the site.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:24 PM on June 25, 2015 [34 favorites]


For what? His depression?

For being a good person who experiences difficulties but is trying to help and is willing to use himself as an example.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:26 PM on June 25, 2015 [18 favorites]


Totally relate to his discovery. I had experienced that process much earlier, my whole life, of course, was overreaction, but in the early-mid 00's it got to the point where, my girlfriend (hey, another similarity - our partners getting us to get help) said that I needed help, and I said yeah. I've been on a few different meds off and on for the past... 10-12 years? In some ways it's great, the anxiety reduction is amazing, but... well, I think he's talking about dysthymia (the chronic depression... I used the term "low grade depression" like a low grade fever). And I have that. My depressions aren't so big anymore, but neither are my highs. I showed this to my roomie (the ex-girlfriend who got me to get help) and she kept nodding her head.

Also - we both agreed. TRIM DAT BEARD, YO!
posted by symbioid at 8:30 PM on June 25, 2015


...I can't imagine rating a person, even as an attempt at humour, is particularly helpful, particularly in this context.

God save us from the humourists who think laughter is actually a cure.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:37 PM on June 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


(Boardgame rating because Wil Wheaton is a boardgame guy. It's an in-joke just for me and other people who don't automatically think that everybody else is I guess a SS officer or X-Factor judge or something.)
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:40 PM on June 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


For being a good person who experiences difficulties but is trying to help and is willing to use himself as an example.

Yeah, sorry I don't get the rating thing there at all, and thought it was kind of odd in this context. I haven't followed him closely and don't give a hoot about Reddit, but he seems like a genuinely nice person who opened up on camera about living with an anxiety disorder and depression.
posted by Nevin at 8:40 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Anyway, 8.5/10 is a pretty good rating for a human being regardless of why.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:44 PM on June 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


This video is great and strikes a chord in some important ways. Thank you for posting it, joseph conrad is fully awesome, and thanks to Wil for making it.

I'm thinking maybe it's not the coolest thing in the world, when someone makes a video talking about their deeply personal struggle with depression and anxiety, to then have an internet discussion critiquing his various faults. Just a thought.
posted by The World Famous at 8:46 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


TRIM DAT BEARD, YO!

He looks... like... Riker.
posted by Nevin at 8:48 PM on June 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


The recent TableTop debacle (re: boardgame rules, of all things) could have been handled a little better by him personally, I guess...

Wait, what debacle? I love TableTop, and I'm upset to think any debaclery has been involved.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:07 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


"The Debacle," because I already Googled it:

The TableTop debacle is that apparently many games were not played by the rules, which was a big deal to some of the people who backed TableTop on Kickstarter. Wil explained this was the fault of a producer, and called them out over it very publicly. This made many people on Reddit's board angry because of the way it was handled (and others showed support) which seemed to spill over into Twitter fights between Wil and others. This experience was upsetting for Wil, who apologized more directly, and who may or may not do TableTop again.

I think that is it. I am not an insider...
posted by blahblahblah at 9:12 PM on June 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


(Yeah, didn't mean to derail with the TableTop thing, sorry. I've only really been exposed to him in that context though and didn't know about his various struggles, so this connected a lot of dots for me and I now find myself much more sympathetic to Wil than I already was, and much more disdainful of a certain subset of boardgamers generally.)
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:15 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, for real, I get the context of 'lols he rates board games so it's a reference to what he does' I just think it's shitty taste and not funny. To bounce off another thread, it's just a reference to a different thing.

Maybe I'm just sensitive - I've had both the out-of-place rating being done (mate, it's freelance work, don't fucking mark me like I'm a student, even if I do this for a living in my day job), and I'm surrounded by people who think scoring a cheap laugh absolves them of responsibility for the shit they say.

Personally, I think 'rules still get fucked up with several people on deck looking for it' means, like a lot of boardgames, the complexity is induced via intricate rules. Which is the number one reason I hate most boardgames. It's probably a fairly accurate review specifically for the fuck up - if several people are making it their job to play and they still get it wrong, that serves as an indictment of the ruleset.

Circling back to the anxiety/depression thing, I can't imagine having the redditgamer mob on his ass for things helps. I tried to explain it to my partner that when some asshole gives me shit, they aren't just some asshole being a dick and I can write them off - they are verbalising and externalising a voice in my head that is real insistent that I'm a terrible human being utterly incapable of being good, and at my core entirely worthless. Even when I know they are objectively wrong (or just being 'funny') part of me has the knives out and whispering in my ear "they're right, and the only ones brave enough to say it out loud".

I wonder why so many people with anxiety end up in careers where people judge us, it's like we need to reinforce all of this somehow.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:19 PM on June 25, 2015 [28 favorites]


Huh. I still think of Wil Wheaton from his early days as a family blogger. I don't even associate him with boardgames.
posted by Nevin at 9:26 PM on June 25, 2015


This was an inspiring video and I'm glad Wil had the courage and the ... generosity to speak so candidly about these things that are a part of his life. As someone who has many of the same issues, I'm not sure I'd be so hurt to get a rating of 8.5/10 on anything... that's a lot higher than *I* would ever rate myself, even in areas where I'd objectively deserve such a high mark. But that's like, just my opinion, man.
posted by some loser at 9:29 PM on June 25, 2015


Wait, you mean that Wil Wheaton has made himself a second (or third or fourth) career out of playing board games? This is the most wonderful thing ever! Why did my high-school guidance counselor not tell me about this option?

So many years, wasted...
posted by math at 9:49 PM on June 25, 2015 [15 favorites]


Personally, I think 'rules still get fucked up with several people on deck looking for it' means, like a lot of boardgames, the complexity is induced via intricate rules. Which is the number one reason I hate most boardgames. It's probably a fairly accurate review specifically for the fuck up - if several people are making it their job to play and they still get it wrong, that serves as an indictment of the ruleset.

Not to get in the way of your weird axegrinding or anything, but in the blog post where Wheaton talks about the producer the only game he specifically mentions is Kingdom Builder, which is an extremely light and simple game. It's the type you might use to introduce boardgaming to someone who doesn't usually play games, like older family members or something. (I know it's good for this because I've used it for this on multiple occasions.) The rules booklet for Kingdom Builder has like three pages of rules in it with lots of big pictures throughout. I haven't watched that episode of Tabletop so I don't know what specific rules screwup they ran into, but if you can play multiple games of Kingdom Builder and still not know the rules at the end, what that means is that nobody even read the very slim booklet. (Judging from the tone of his blog post, it sounds like that may be exactly what happened.)
posted by IAmUnaware at 10:03 PM on June 25, 2015


In fairness, I remember that it was the second or third game of our own copy before we realized that you can't use powers the turn you get them. The rulebook for Kingdom Builder is not the greatest piece of design I've ever seen. And it's not inherently unreasonable that you'd get to use the power immediately, nor is it particularly game-breaking, honestly.

(Why are so many board games, where you are essentially *selling* the design as the product entire, so often beset by needlessly complicated and hard-to-follow rulebooks?)
posted by Scattercat at 10:11 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


It was slightly unnerving to log in to Tumblr one day to see a celebrity, even a celebrity I knew struggled with these kinds of issues, talking about waking up in the middle of a panic attack and avoiding sleep because of it. That's always been one of the features of my anxiety that I considered kind of weird and not something other people were likely to get. And then there was a famous person going yeah, that sucks.

I guess that's the value of it. It shouldn't have to be, but this is the world we live in, right? Things aren't real if they don't exist in the media, not really, because we see more of the media than we see of each other, on a grand scale. Representation matters in big things, like race and gender, but sometimes it matters in the small things--not just seeing that someone else has the same broad mental health problem you do, but that this weird stupid thing that happens to you is not actually weird and stupid, because you can't call Wil Wheaton stupid, can you?

It still feels silly that it helps, but it helps.

I mean, I'm still up at 1:30 in the morning, but.
posted by Sequence at 10:25 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


(Why are so many board games, where you are essentially *selling* the design as the product entire, so often beset by needlessly complicated and hard-to-follow rulebooks?)

There's a few things going on here.

1) It's tough to communicate a full ruleset in a concise way. There's usually a couple big general ideas you want to get across, and then a bunch of corner cases that really flesh out the game, and which are tough to deal with when you don't have the big ideas yet.

2) Once you _do_ know the big ideas, and are starting to get a grapple on the corner cases, you want an actual rules reference, rather than the verbose introduction. Unfortunately, a full rules reference isn't terribly sexy, and can give people the sense that they're walking into something horribly complicated.

3) It's also just way, way easier to have someone explain the game to you than to read the rule book. The interaction makes sure you're on board for the basics, while unfolding the complexities as they come up.

I think Level99 Games gets at a good solution to this: They put up youtube videos explaining how to play all their games, and arrange their rule books essentially as a reference. (They make Pixel Tactics, which I absolutely love, and which is so complicated that none of my friends will play it with me. Every card has five different potential meanings, determined by placement and usage. And there's piles of interesting card combinations and strategies... it's awesome.)

(Oh, and wil wheaton is awesome.)
posted by kaibutsu at 10:35 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


That was wonderful.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:17 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love wil wheaton. I'm sad that he has negative feelings about our space here.

And I really appreciate what he said about depression. I've suffered with depression for a number of years, and a lot of what he said resonates with me. It touched everything. It's all I knew for so long though that it felt normal, so I internalized a lot of my lack of ambition and empathy on a personal moral failing. I would bring anxiety home from work and into the room with me and it got expressed over things that didn't matter that much. My wife eventually encouraged me to get help and consider medication, which I did. I now know what it is to feel normal and to experience emotions more fully and appreciate just being a person. It cleared mental space to be myself.

And I know that it's okay to be vulnerable without the risk that I used to associate with being "seen." So, I share this with you today, simply happy to be in a better place.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:22 PM on June 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


TRIM DAT BEARD, YO!

I haven't trimmed my beard in any way other than to shape it slightly in over 2 years. He's hardly even getting started, as far as I can tell. (Unless his terminal length is much shorter than mine, which is highly individual and possible.)

I like the longer beard on him. I've always felt his close-trimmed beard was a bit patchy, and the longer beard fills that in nicely, and it looks good.
posted by hippybear at 12:57 AM on June 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Kudos Wil, and the rest of UROK.

In the UK there is also Time To Change, which is aimed at reducing discrimination and the stigma surrounding mental health, and encouraging people to talk about it.
posted by itsjustanalias at 1:00 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Guys, you have really got to listen to the Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast. Paul Gilmartin is a longtime stand-up comic who launched a podcast where he talks with people about mental illness. He has on plenty of celebrities as well as folks you've never heard of, and the conversations are shockingly honest, heartbreaking and hilarious. (As time has gone on he's had fewer celebrities on, probably because there are only so many famous people out there ready to open up about their mental illness. But look through the archives and you'll be amazed by some of the names in there.) I've hyped this show a few times too many on Ask Metafilter, but it can seriously be life changing.

I'm not going to name names, but I think some people in this thread need to be nicer to each other.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:30 AM on June 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


Wil is one of the most decent people I know, and has been a good friend to me. I'm really proud of him too, and it makes me sad when I see people being less than kind to him.
posted by culfinglin at 1:47 AM on June 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Honestly, he won my heart when he sent the Bloggess a picture of him collating paper, and I adore Tabletop. I'm so glad he got help with his anxiety.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:58 AM on June 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I like the longer beard on him. I've always felt his close-trimmed beard was a bit patchy, and the longer beard fills that in nicely, and it looks good.

I feel like hippybear and I have similar aesthetic preferences, if I'm recalling other posts correctly and for sure. Wheaton's beard looks great and I'm always pro-fearsome facial hair, and in this case it absolutely looks damn good. I mean, he was cute beforehand, I just think the bigger bushier beard is also A++ would pat in real life except that's a weird violation of personal space.

One of the things I keep coming back to in the video is the crying thing at a nice day thing - I remember doing that while I was pregnant, which was the first time in my adult memory I was happy and not anxious. Not that I was unworried - pregnant yo - but just realising I was in the shower washing this itchy lump of my belly and I was just happy. I'm having a notgood period at the moment and my therapist recommended meds, and I've been pondering it because they never made that kind of difference to me, not how Wheaton describes, but maybe they might work this time?

(back in high school my friend's older sister had such a thing for him, which was pretty much my only exposure to Wheaton until getting back into games a few years ago and it turns out he's all over gaming, and that Bloggess thing as well)
posted by geek anachronism at 2:10 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wil Wheaton is a delight and a treasure, and is in no small way responsible for a young fffm going "Oh hey. Boys. Wow."

And as someone with some similar bits of miswiring in my head, kudos to him for surviving in some particularly nasty intersections of a brutal industry.

It would be really nice to see him come back here. Perhaps someone who knows him could extend a personal invitation.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:40 AM on June 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


The internets about-face on Wil Wheaton between 1990 and now is the most significant thing that I've ever witnessed.

He's a great guy, and he's been dealing with griefers since before most people even knew an Internet existed. Or as Abraham Lincoln once said, "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage."
posted by blue_beetle at 5:29 AM on June 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Has anyone heard if The Wil Wheaton Project was picked back up?
posted by DrAstroZoom at 6:42 AM on June 26, 2015


Since we're sharing Wil Wheaton stories, I've gotten things signed by him twice, both times at PAX Prime. One was back in 2008. He was sick, even, but he got to his table and took the time to make sure his fans got a little time with him. He has a great story in Just A Geek about meeting William Shatner, and how it didn't go so well, but more importantly, how his fellow Next Generation cast members stuck up for him, and how Michael Dorn and Jonathan Frakes offered to go beat up Shatner for him. I loved the story because I loved the sense of family that Wheaton conveys when he talks about the Next Generation.

The second time was 2011. He had mentioned Nethack in a panel I had seen him in earlier that day, and I asked him if he had ever Ascended. He looked surprised at the question. "NOOO!" He had gotten close, but never made it. We chatted a bit, and then I felt bad for taking other people's time and I skulked away.

One of the thing I love about Wheaton is that he does these signings for free. Even when he's doing the photo ops with the other celebs, he doesn't charge for a signing. He takes time to chat a little bit with each person who comes to him, because he's a nerd too, and he's nerded-out about people too. He's a great guy and I appreciate he's being open about mental health.
posted by gc at 8:30 AM on June 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Michael Dorn and Jonathan Frakes offered to go beat up Shatner for him.

Pfft.

Shatner would drop-kick them into next week.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:09 AM on June 26, 2015


Michael Dorn and Jonathan Frakes offered to go beat up Shatner for him.

1. Riker gets Shatner's attention with talking.
2. Worf crouches quietly behind him.
3. Worf shouts "For honor!" and Riker shoves Shatner.
4. Shatner falls backward over the crouched Worf, hits his head on the ground, is out.
5. Away team is beamed back.
6. Log entries are made.
7. Picard makes some summary statement.
8. Everyone on the bridge laughs.
9. Credits roll.
posted by ignignokt at 10:29 AM on June 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


TRIM DAT BEARD, YO!

Man wants a beard. Man gets to have a beard.

Everything else is noise.
posted by srboisvert at 11:01 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wheaton's first couple books dealt a lot with his experience on ST:TNG and how much shit he took and how he negotiated it.

In a really weird way reading those helped me put down the burden of never being successful at convincing America to love my brand of marginally talented over thinky art punk. Which allowed me to really enjoy playing music for it's own sake. It really changed my life for the better.

When I saw him, five or six years ago at PAX, I was buying a t-shirt and he was walking past me slowly just eyeballing stuff. I didn't want to bug him too hard, so I just said "Thanks for all your writing, man"

He thanked me very genuinely and actually blushed a little. In that moment I wanted very badly to hug him. I'm glad I didn't because that would be totally invasive, but watching this made me want him to know there's a hanging hug out there if he needs it.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:42 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's likely Wil and Bill patched things up some time after, considering they recently worked together on an episode of Shatner's web series Brown Bag Wine Tasting.

DrAstroZoom, TWWP was not renewed. He wrote about it here.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:53 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wil is one of the most decent people I know, and has been a good friend to me. I'm really proud of him too, and it makes me sad when I see people being less than kind to him.

While I do not know Wheaton personally, and that's fine, I think this sentiment was why I was getting a little irritated upthread. The guy is so obviously a mensch. He doesn't deserve our praise exactly, he deserves respect and in the context of his interview here, a bit of empathy.
posted by Nevin at 2:07 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


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